Shocking and disgraceful, and a feeling of heartfelt sympathy for the victims, is the reaction that comes to mind when one sees and reads about the condition of state hospitals as reported by the BBC and others.
It was reported that doctors and nurses at, among others, Livingstone Hospital in the Eastern Cape, which is the main Covid-19 hospital in the district, describe the situation as a “war zone” with blood and waste on the floors, shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), lack of oxygen, severe ambulance shortages, no ventilation and patients having to sleep under newspapers.
A photograph was also posted of rats drinking dark red medical waste running into an open drain.
These conditions are not a consequence of Covid-19; they are the result of years of poor governance and corruption. This is due to a central government that is also characterised by years of poor governance and corruption.
The Solidarity Occupational Guild for Healthcare Practitioners already demanded in an open letter to the Health Minister dated 19 March 2020 that the government should put measures in place to ensure occupational health and safety at all healthcare institutions, and although the ANC government sharply criticised the way the private sector and the Western Cape provincial government dealt with the pandemic, everything in the ANC government’s own backyard have long since collapsed.
Nonetheless, the President, the Minister and the provincial ANC government address the media and the public, and they say that the public sector is prepared and they say how this sector is the epitome of the ANC’s implementation of its National Health Insurance (NHI) policy.
While governments worldwide have joined hands with the private sector, private healthcare practitioners in South Africa remain excluded and forgotten despite proposals on the table. MedbriefAfrica reports that engagement with the Department of Health on how private medical practitioners can be of assistance remains challenging. Up until now, associations that have approached the department to offer their assistance have been largely ignored. Dr Aslam Dasoo of the Progressive Health Forum (PHF) ascribes this to the long-standing suspicion between the public and private health sectors and indications that government regards possible contracting with doctors during the pandemic as an opportunity to sneak its National Health Insurance (NHI) plans in through the backdoor. “The only tool in the Department of Health’s toolbox is based on its NHI contracting and for that to be done, they want doctors to go on PERSAL, similar to what was done at the NHI pilot projects which failed dismally,” Dr Dasoo noted.
The Solidarity Occipational Guild for Healthcare Practitioners and the Solidarity Occupational Guild for Nursing are fed-up with the government presenting a fraudulent state of affairs with regard to its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and the overall state of affairs in the public health sector, and Solidarity’s guilds will continue to strongly oppose the ANC’s National Health Insurance (NHI), and continue to develop alternative options.
It is a shame that the foreign and international community had to report on and take note of such appalling conditions in state hospitals, while South African health practitioners and nurses have the ability to perform so much better.